How Danny White saved UCF Athletics
2015 was a miserable year for all of UCF athletics. From top to bottom there were few bright spots. Football of course got all of the negative press and attention. But both men and women's basketball suffered another losing season and baseball remained mediocre. Plus there was the whole O'Leary as athletic director nightmare scenario that seemed like a possibility. So it appeared that 2015 was going to set UCF athletics back years. But then came the announcement that UCF was searching for a new athletic director and that George would not be a candidate. After weeks of interviews, it came out that the choice was between UCF alum and fan favorite Chris Kingston or the little known young Buffalo Athletic Director by the name of Danny White. Well it appears by naming Danny White as athletic Director, UCF has finally found its voice. Has finally found an aggressive, hungry AD that can build the athletic program. It may be a small sample size, but in a year Danny White has made UCF athletics healthier than it has ever been. He has fixed all the problems that ailed the department.
His hiring of Scott Frost of course got national headlines. Frost was the most prized coordinator, but no knee thought he would even consider UCF. Yet Danny White somehow convinced Frost to come to Orlando. It has been a decision that has paid enormous dividends. Of course there were the initial naysayers that said that Frost was inexperienced and wouldn't be successful. And the group that said that Frost was not a CEO type and would alienate the fanbase. So White took a risk. Now UCF football is headed to a bowl game following a winless season. As I have mentioned before, Frost has changed a dying culture at UCF. Not only is the team much improved on the field, but off of it as well. Football is so I orient for a college and White fixed UCF's in the matter of a season.
But Danny White's biggest contribution came when he fired not only Donnie Jones, but also Joi Williams. Both basketball coaches were stealing money from the university. Their teams were underachieving both on the court and in the classroom. Both seemed so far over their heads that they had no idea how to get back above water. The basketball programs became a joke, not just in the court, but off it as well. The men's team had been sanctioned in the Donnie Jones era which meant the loss of scholarships and vacating wins. So any real athletic director would have fired Donnie, right? Well Todd Stanbury did the opposite. Stansbury extended both Jones and Williams who continued the mediocrity for a few more years. Then enter Danny White, the man that played basketball under Mike Brey. White fired both Jones and Williams and replaced them with upgrades. Williams was replaced with Albany head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson. Jones was replaced with basketball legend Johnny Dawkins. And you see this is what separates White from Stansbury. Todd would rather cover up the problem or pretend it didn't exist, whereas Danny fixes it immediately, Though the season is still early, both coaches have been tremendous upgrades. Hell, UCF's men's team already received a top 25 vote.
Then there was Terry Rooney the oft criticized head baseball coach. Rooney had proclaimed that he would take the UCF Knights to Omaha aka the College World Series. Of course he never did and the UCF fans wanted blood. But as the season ended, something strange occurred: Rooney resigned as head coach and moved to Alabama. This left UCF with a sudden hole to fill. Now an awful Athletic Director like Todd Stansbury would have panicked and made a rash decision. But not Danny White. Danny took his time until he found his guy: Wright State head coach and Miami baseball hero Greg Lovelady. It's fair to say that every single head coach position at UCF has been upgraded. These are the type of coaches that UCF fans have been clamoring for a long time and White finally pulled the trigger and brought these coaches in. Danny is not ruled by fear like Todd was. Dr.White is willing to take action to better the athletic department.
But Danny White's impact is not just about his hiring and firings. White has also been a marketing and fundraising machine. One of his biggest strengths according to Buffalo sources was that Danny could raise funds with the best of the best. He has not disappointed. UCF has seen a increase in funds since White arrived in Orlando. Enough to be able to pay for not only the likes of Frost, Dawkins, and Lovelady, but also build a new scoreboard for the football stadium, and embark on a ambitious remodel of the baseball stadium. Sure plans had been in place before, but Stansbury never could raise the funds for either. White has went to old UCF boosters who were demoralized by George O'Leary and got them to recommit to the university. Danny White did. UCF even now utilizes Epcot as a recruiting tool and that is because of White's ability to think outside the box.
Todd Stansbury and his lackey Zack Lassitter set UCF marketing back many years. In fact the word incompetent can not begin to describe Lassitter's marketing strategy. They never took the athletic department on tours around the state, never updated the online athletic department page, and never were that strong of a social media presence. So good luck with that Georgia Tech. Again Danny a White changed all of that. One of the first things he did was overhaul the UCF athletics page into a sleek, easy to use design. White was also the one who allowed for the UCF football team web series "Rise and Conquer", to be created. The series offers a unique look into the program. You know a lot has been made of UCF new uniforms. Many associated this with Frost's pull with Phil Knight, however did you know that Danny White had signed a new deal with Nike when he arrived? White has just as much to do with the new uniforms as Frost does.
I do not know if there is an award for the country's best Athletic Director, but if here is then Danny White better be on it. In a single year he cleaned out all the muck and negativity that had infested the athletic department. White has rebuilt UCF in his own image: a hungry and aggressive program that is no longer satisfied with the sleeping giant moniker. If Danny White can do this all in a single year, imagine what he's going to do as he continues in his role. UCF's future is in such good hands and I can't remember a time, if ever, we have been able to say that.